The Fort Hays State University cross country teams will not have competed in a race in three weeks before racing at conference on Saturday, but head coach Jason McCullough said that is a positive.
“I personally view it as a good thing, because you don’t have to worry about the stress of racing at this time of the year when you have mid-terms and other things you have to worry about,” McCullough said. “You can just train and get ready for the race.”
Fort Hays will host the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship meet. The races begin at 10 a.m., and the course is located east of Gross Memorial Coliseum and stretches along the dike.
It is the first time the Tigers have hosted the MIAA championships since joining the conference in 2006.
“It is always exciting to go to conference because there is good competition and you know what you are up against,” sophomore Gentry Linscott said. “It is always more intense. It is just a different feeling when you get to conference.”
McCullough said it is an advantage to have the meet at Fort Hays because the runners do not have to depart from their typical routine.
“You can do the normal things that you do every day for practice like sleep in your own bed and eat your own food,” McCullough said. “You know the course and you know how fast you can run here. There are no surprises. You just have to go out and execute like we planned.”
The men’s and women’s teams were ranked No. 5 in the preseason coaches’ polls, but McCullough said his team has higher aspirations. He thinks if his teams run well, the men could finish in the top three, and the women could finish in the top four.
“I think there are three nationally ranked teams on the women’s side and two on the men’s side,” McCullugh said. “To be right there with those teams would be a great performance for us.”
On the men’s side, the University of Central Missouri and Pittsburg State University are ranked No. 17 and No. 21 in NCAA Division II, and Pittsburg, Truman State University and Missouri Southern State University are ranked No. 11, No. 13 and No. 23 on the women’s side, respectively.
“We only get to see them a handful of times and so do our fans, so it is a great chance to see some really good rivalries and see some pretty solid runners from a pretty good conference,” McCullough said. “It is going to be a pretty good meet. I don’t know if it will be quite as fast as our open, but it should be more competitive.”
McCullough said he has tried to make his team’s training so the runners would peak at conference and the South Central regional.
“I think we are right where we need to be,” McCullough said. “We are not doing too much at all this week so we are not fatigued for this race, because obviously, this means quite a bit to our program.”